U.S., Colombia Hold High-Level Partnership Dialogue

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
June 1, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton participated in the second-ever U.S.-Colombian High-Level Partnership Dialogue at the Department of State on May 31, 2011. In remarks to participants, Secretary Clinton said:

"...We meet at a time when there is so much going on in our hemisphere and around the world, and we are inspired and greatly admiring of all that Colombia has accomplished.

"For me, it is just a stark comparison. Where citizens once lived in fear to exercise their right to vote, now we have peaceful democratic elections that are really the envy of so many other countries that have not been able to make that transition. We see now not only Colombia consolidating gains internally, but reaching out to help neighbors in so many respects, and I am delighted that we are building on the strong relationship that we've had over the past years. Of course, we're so committed to the passage of the Free Trade Agreement. We know -- which is what President Obama has stated publicly and unequivocally -- that this will bring jobs and growth to both of our countries. It will also help to support the security gains that Colombia has made, and, as our two presidents have agreed, it opens even a broader vista for greater cooperation on the spectrum of our shared challenges and opportunities.

"Many of you have been involved in this conversation for a long time, and today, with the convening of five working groups, three for the first time, we hope there will be even greater contact between officials of our two governments and more creative approaches to cooperation. Human rights have been a focal point in our dialogue, and I am very honored that Vice President Garzon joined with Deputy Secretary Steinberg to continue the conversations which they started last October in Bogota. And we know that this is a high priority for the Santos administration, to improve on human rights, labor rights, and civil rights.

"We also are strongly supportive of your efforts to return families who are displaced by violence to their homes and to end impunity for abuses, and I understand there was agreement to track, on a monthly basis, the progress of important human rights cases. This kind of whole-of-government effort, bringing together experts on security, development, and the rule of law -- all of whom are with us today -- is a way to really focus the attention of us all.

"The Energy Working Group is working to expand our partnership on fossil fuels and clean energy, and the very promising ideas that Colombia has presented for linking electric grids across Latin America. For the first time, the Climate Change and Environmental Protection Working Group was convened. Colombia exercised leadership in Cancun, and we want to deepen our diplomatic cooperation at future climate talks and to find new ways to develop strategies for expanding development without increasing carbon emissions.

"And an issue that is particularly close to my heart is inclusive development, and I am very impressed that the Santos administration has adopted this as a goal. The Social and Economic Working Group discussed Colombia's national development plan, and the United States wants to support this impressive investment in the Colombian people and to look for how we can reach out to all Colombians, in particular indigenous and Afro-Caribbean populations. And I was at the OECD just a few days ago in Paris, and I want to underscore that we want to support Colombia's bid to join the OECD.

"And finally, the Culture and Education Working Group met on how each country can expand access to education, preserve ancient cultures, optimize people-to-people exchanges such as the Fulbright Scholarship that brought President Santos to the United States 31 years ago. We've been working closely together for a long time, but I really believe this dialogue represents a deeper engagement than we've ever had before. Certainly during the '90s, an era that I am somewhat familiar with in American politics, we began a very close working relationship on behalf of security. But now, given the extraordinary gains that Colombia has made, the United States wants to support the priorities that President Santos is able to promote, to build on an environment that does provide more physical security, to move now to human security and all of the issues that go with economic growth, with social and cultural transformation.

"Now, some I know say, well, when people come and talk, what happens? And I think it's too simplistic a question, because one really never knows what can happen through this kind of engagement, through getting to know one another, through building relationships. I'm convinced in the absence of that, the answer is easy: Not much will happen. But given this level of engagement that we saw in action, I'm told, at lunch with so many different people coming from across our government and yours to discuss a way forward on the range of issues that are important, there is an extraordinary opportunity here.

"And I thank you for your hard work on behalf of Colombia, and I thank my colleagues in government for your hard work on behalf of this very important relationship that we have between our two countries. I wanted to come this afternoon to underscore the importance that we place on it and to thank you not only for what you have done, which presents such an extraordinary model for so many others, but for the increasing role that you are playing in the region and the world.

"Just in the last few months, the work that the president and the foreign minister have led on the reintegration of Honduras into the OAS, which we hope and trust occurs tomorrow -- it could not have happened without creative diplomacy and Colombian leadership. The role that Colombia is playing on the Security Council, the strong support for standing against the abusive actions of Qadhafi in Libya, and of looking for ways to hold governments accountable for their mistreatment of their own citizens -- again, Colombia is playing a global leadership role.

"So on so many fronts, this is a relationship that is on a solid foundation but has the opportunity to become so much more for the benefit not only of the people of Colombia, but I would say for our own people in the United States the kind of positive, open relationship that we hope to see even stronger in the future, we think is very much in the interests of the United States as well as Colombia. We actually have a lot to learn from you, and we look forward to the opportunities that this partnership dialogue provides to do just that."

You can read the complete transcript of the Secretary's remarks here.

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